Pujols adds 3,000-hit club to historic resume

Angels slugger also gets No. 3,001 to pass Clemente for 31st all-time

May 5th, 2018

SEATTLE -- Albert Pujols has moved into increasingly rarefied territory over his decorated 18-year career in the Majors. On Friday night, he reached another prestigious summit, lining a single to right field in the fifth inning against Mariners right-hander Mike Leake for his 3,000th hit. The Angels slugger added a two-run single in the ninth for No. 3,001, driving in two runs to help the Halos to a 5-0 win.

"It was going to happen, it was just a matter of when," Pujols said. "I just thank the Lord that it happened tonight in front of my family, my friends. Now we just stay focused on the things that I want to do, which is help this ballclub to win. We don't have to talk too much about 3,000 now."

Pujols, 38, became the 32nd player to reach 3,000 and the second from the Dominican Republic, after . With 620 homers, he is only the fourth player to collect 3,000 hits and 600 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez.

"His nickname 'The Machine' was not just for his hitting proficiency," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's like his will to play. He comes out here every day, wants to help the team win a game. You have to have an incredible makeup to be that good for that long. He's obviously an exceptional talent. Combined with all the intangibles, you see why he's in rarefied air. Four guys, in all the careers in baseball of great, great players. To do what he's doing, I think it says it all."

Pujols doubled off Orioles right-hander for his 2,999th hit on Thursday, but he went hitless in his next three plate appearances, shifting his march to 3,000 to Safeco Field.

Pujols lined out to shortstop in shallow left field his first at-bat against Leake and then worked a 10-pitch walk to lead off the fourth. The anticipation finally came to an end in the following inning, when he lined a 1-0 sinker into right field for the milestone hit.

"It was fun that it turned into a little bit of a battle before he got a hit," Leake said. "But congratulations to him. He's a competitor every second that he's on the field. He's been a joy to watch and a joy to compete against, for sure."

After rounding first, Pujols looked toward the sky, hugged first-base coach Alfredo Griffin and clapped his hands. His Angels teammates -- led by  -- soon streamed out of the dugout to congratulate him at first base, engulfing him in a collective embrace.

"It was hard to hug everybody, so I told them, 'Let's do a group hug,'" Pujols said.

The celebration continued after the game in the clubhouse, with the Angels holding a champagne toast in Pujols' honor. When he sat down at the dais for his postgame press conference, he sported a gray T-shirt that read "Pujols 3K."

"I was really happy to see a moment like this," said , who witnessed the historic moment from the on-deck circle. "It's something I can brag about for the rest of my life."

With his 3,000th hit, Pujols moved into a tie with Roberto Clemente, and his 3,001st gave him sole possession of 31st on the all-time list. His 620 home runs rank seventh.

"There are so many people -- if I start thanking them all we might be here to till 2 in the morning," Pujols said. "In the Dominican Republic, there were 10 million-plus people staying up and missing sleep over the last couple days waiting for this moment. This is a moment that I share with my friend Adrian Beltre, who accomplished that last year. To be able to come to the United States and be the second Dominican-born player to accomplish that is pretty special."

Prior to the game, Pujols spent some time chatting on the field with Mariners icon , another member of the 3,000-hit club, who said he could relate to the anxiety that tends to build when a player is on the cusp of such a major accomplishment. Ichiro's 3,000th hit was a triple for the Marlins on Aug. 7, 2016.

"I'd have been so stressed out I'd probably have had to go to the hospital," said Ichiro, who began his new front-office role with the Mariners on Friday.

A 13th-round Draft pick of the Cardinals in 1999, Pujols made an improbable rise from obscurity to become one of the most feared right-handed sluggers of his generation. Over his 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols produced his first 2,073 hits, captured three National League MVP Awards and helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series titles. Nine hundred and twenty-eight of his hits have come with the Angels, who signed him to a 10-year, $240 million contract in December 2011.

"My goal was to try to get an opportunity to become a professional athlete," Pujols said. "I thank God for giving me the ability and the talent to do that. I never thought that my career would end up like this. If I would have had 1,000 pages blank and the Lord would have said just write what you think is going to happen in 38 years, I wouldn't have even come close to the history and the things that I've done in this game."

Pujols and Rod Carew are the only players to log their 3,000th hit in an Angels uniform. Pujols will receive a $3 million bonus from the Angels for reaching the milestone.

"I think the guys know the living history that we're seeing every day with Albert," Scioscia said. "These aren't things that you're going to say 15 years down the road, 'Hey, that was really impressive.' These are things that 15 seconds later you're going, 'Man, this is really special.' It's fun to watch it."